We had a great first year covering statewide high school football here at KSR. I traveled across the state every Friday to watch some incredible football with some incredible people. So before everyone in the state focuses on basketball, let’s look back on a great season of Kentucky High School Football.
Offensive Player of the Year- This was a very difficult decision. Not every player plays the same level of competition and some players receive more hype than others. One Junior had a meteoric rise this season for 6A Lafayette. Walker Wood totaled 4, 234 yards of offense for the Generals in 2015. Wood led Lafayette to the state championship and put up 365 yards against the best defense in the state in a losing effort. The Kentucky-commit was 186/313 (59%) for 2, 589 yards and 21 touchdowns. On the ground, Wood ran for 1,645 yards and 21 touchdowns on 236 carries (6.97) carries. His complete skill set separated him from the rest.
Defensive Player of the Year- This award, on the other hand, was not as difficult. Kash Daniel from Paintsville finished with 158 tackles in his senior season and was the best defensive player in the state. In 13 games played, Daniel also recovered four fumbles. No player changed the course of a game like Kash did for Paintsville. His presence on defense completely changes the mindset of the opponent’s play-calling. He is a spectacular athlete and it will be fun to have a strong leader like Kash on campus.
Coach of the Year- Joe Chirico, Paintsville- No coach in the state has turned around a program like Chirico has in Paintsville. There are several great candidates for this award, but what Chirico has done over the last three years has been nothing short of spectacular. When his 2016 class were freshmen, the Tigers barely had enough players to play a game. Paintsville was 3-8 in 2012 with the previous coach fired after a bad loss to Pikeville in the postseason. Chirico came in and there was immediate improvement within the program. The Tigers went 8-4 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs in Chirico’s first season. The program continued to see a climb when they went 10-3 with a win over Pikeville in 2014. The big jump came this season. Paintsville went 13-1 and beat Pikeville once and Raceland twice. Under his watch, Kash Daniel and Kent Phelps have become as D1 recruits. Chirico has been a great leader and runs one of the best programs I had the pleasure of watching this season.
1A Player of the Year- Daric Pugh, Pikeville- With 2,069 yards on the ground, Pugh led Pikeville to their fifth state championship in school history. Pugh ran for 35 touchdowns in 14 games this season.
2A Player of the Year- Ray Zuberer, Owensboro Catholic- The WKU Baseball signee threw for 3,210 yards and 44 touchdowns in his senior season. In 326 attempts, Zuberer threw only six interceptions to lead OCHS to a 10-3 season.
3A Player of the Year- Shane Burns, Caldwell County- Burns really put the team on his back this season. The Caldwell County QB was 228/325 for 3,191 yards and 34 touchdowns.
4A Player of the Year- Quinton Baker, Ashland- This may be the easy way out, but it’s the correct pick. Baker ran for 1,976 yards and 26 touchdowns in his senior season. The new WKU commit broke his commitment to Marshall last month.
5A Player of the Year- Riley Hall, Pulaski County- The four-year starting QB went to three state titles in his time at Pulaski County. Hall finished 6th all-time in KHSAA history with 112 passing touchdowns and 10,525 yards.
6A Player of the Year- Dillion Powell, Simon Kenton- The Pioneers rode Powell all the way to the state semifinals. Powell ran for 1,780 yards in 13 games. Powell’s 23 rushing touchdowns were the second most in 6A.
Defense wins championships. South Warren and Male proved that a top-tier defense will lead to undefeated seasons. The Spartans and Bulldogs both went 15-0 and won their respective state championships. Male shut out seven of their opponents and allowed double figures to four opponents. South Warren never allowed more than 14 points in a game. Both teams held their opponents under 100 total points on the season.
This catch by Manual’s Jaelin Carter from week one might be the best of the season.
Several players made a name for themselves before their senior season. Along with Wood, JeDrick Wills, Tanner Morgan, Kent Phelps, Jamale Carothers, Desmond Ridder, and Legend Brumbaugh all look to lead the state next year.
Bowling Green asserted their dominance in 5A. Even with Highlands and Covington Catholic moving to 5A, BGHS still rolled through their competition. The Purples have won four state titles in five years and lost a combined three games. Of that stretch, they have lost only once to a 5A opponent and only twice to in-state teams. Bowling Green returns a strong core again next year.
Six teams were undefeated before the postseason. Paris, Elizabethtown, Paintsville, and Simon Kenton were all unbeaten before losing in the playoffs. Male and South Warren both finished 15-0.
All six champions were public schools. Male, Bowling Green, South Warren, Belfry, Mayfield, and Pikeville were the first group of public school champions to sweep the slate since 2000, the first time since Kentucky moved to six classes.
Last but not least, I want to think everyone who made the last 15 weeks so enjoyable. Mainly those who helped me out when I was in foreign land. My goal when I signed on with KSR was to represent the state I was born and raised in to the best of my ability. I drove over 2,000 miles to games this year and loved every spot. There were many great moments throughout the year. For myself, the best moment was wrapping up the season in my hometown. To sit with my dad and watch BGHS win another title is something I’ll never forget.
Personal coverage from KSR last night pic.twitter.com/2MOtPRuhgv
— Paul Gray (@PGPT27) October 31, 2015
We hope to be back better than ever next year. So if you have suggestions on ways to cover the state (podcasts, more stories, periscopes, etc.) please let me know @TreyHunstmanKSR. Thanks for a great season!